The village of Eagle Nest hunkers down at the low point of the Moreno Valley in between Red River and Angel Fire, hard upon the north shore of Eagle Nest Lake and the drainages that feed it. The area is lush and thus, attracts an abundance of wildlife. The town of approximately 267 residents sits between New Mexico’s two highest peaks — Baldy Mountain (12,441 feet) and Wheeler Peek (13,161 feet).
A good number of animals remain active throughout the winter such as birds of prey, like the red tail hawk and golden eagle, mule deer, coyotes and bighorn sheep. The star of Eagle Nest’s wintertime show, however, is the valley’s elk herd. Year round, several thousand elk inhabit the mountain-skirt forests on both sides of the valley. Cows, calves and younger bulls hang together in one group, while the bulls form bachelor herds.
Eagle Nest is known as the Moreno Valley headquarters for some of the best big and small game hunting in the country. Trophy elk, bear, lion and deer are taken in both public hunt areas and through professional guide services on private lands throughout the area. For the camper, backpacker, hiker or four wheeler, Eagle Nest is adjacent to the 1.6 million acre Carson National Forest with easy access to the Wheeler Peak Wilderness area.
Non-migrating smaller birds, like songbirds, proliferate all year round. Sparrows, juncos, chickadees and others all pick off insects and chow down on backyard feeders to stay alive through the winter. Blue grouse over-winter under the cover of the area’s conifer forests.
Eagle Nest Lake is the newest New Mexico State Park and attracts ice fishermen looking to land trophy Rainbow trout, and Kokanee and Coho salmon. You can find all the equipment you’ll need at the Eagle Nest Marina. The lake is subject to closure if conditions are unsafe. Be sure to check that the lake is open before making the trip at the web site emnrd.state.mn.us or call (575) 377-1594.
If fishing isn’t your thing, but cold water is then you’re in luck. Visitors with cold intentions can take the annual Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day at Eagle Nest Lake State Park Visitor Center. Registration to participate in the chilling event begins at 9 a.m. Day-use fee of $5 per motor vehicle is required. Information also is available on the Department of Game and Fish or New Mexico State Parks respective websites, wildlife.state.nm.us and nmparks.com.
The small town breaths the Old West culture complete with a saloon with swinging doors. Main Street is less than a mile long, with shops carrying locally-made crafts and fine arts, sculpture, sterling silver jewelry, Indian jewelry, antiques, pottery, candies, fudge, clothing, souvenirs, T-shirts, and much more. Visitors can take a break from shopping in one of the down-home restaurants or grab a cappuccino before heading out for more.
Keep your eyes open and your camera battery charged.
Season Dates: Dec. 9-March 20
Average Annual Snowfall: 214 in.
Number of Runs: 57, 1 glade (32 percent beginner, 38 percent intermediate, 30 percent expert)
Number of Lifts: 7 total (2 double chairs, 3 triple chairs, 2 surface tows)
Base Elevation: 8.750 ft.
Peak Elevation: 10,350 ft.
Vertical Drop: 1,600 ft.
Snowmaking: 85 percent of terrain
Information: (575) 754-2223, redriverskiarea.com